Review: “Come Back to Me” by Jody Hedlund

Today I’m reviewing Come Back to Me by Jody Hedlund, the first book in her time-travel fantasy romance “Waters of Time” series. While I’ve enjoyed many historical novels by Hedlund, and she has penned a Medieval series, I was especially excited for the mashup of a contemporary heroine who finds herself in Medieval times while trying to save her family.

About the Book

The ultimate cure that could heal any disease? Crazy.

That’s exactly what research scientist Marian Creighton has always believed about her father’s quest, even if it does stem from a desire to save her sister Ellen from the genetic disease that stole their mother from them. But when her father falls into a coma after drinking a vial of holy water believed to contain traces of residue from the Tree of Life, Marian must question all of her assumptions. He’s left behind tantalizing clues that suggest he’s crossed back in time. Insane. Until Marian tests his theories and finds herself in the Middle Ages during a dangerous peasant uprising.

William Durham, a valiant knight comes to Marian’s rescue and offers her protection . . . as his wife. The longer Marian stays in the past, the more she cares about William. Can she ever find her father and make it back to the present to heal her sister? And when the time comes to leave, will she want to?

Bestselling author Jody Hedlund is your guide down the twisting waters of time to a volatile era of superstition, revolts, and chivalry in this suspenseful story.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Come Back to Me by Jody Hedlund is an adventure of a novel that’s one part action, one part fantasy, two parts romance, and all kinds of awesome! Subtle themes of sacrifice and the lasting impact of love weave through these characters’ interactions as they face unexpected challenges — like the hazards of life in Medieval England.

The concept of historical holy water with Biblical ties is smart and brings a good deal of real-life history to the story, as Hedlund outlines in her author’s note. I liked that real-life aspect, as well as the historical turmoil of the Peasants’ Revolt being important parts of the story. It provides a thought-provoking contrast with Marian’s perspective of life in the 21st century.

I didn’t buy into the instalove between Marian and Will at first. But, I quickly grew to appreciate their relationship as they acknowledge the progression from undeniable attraction, to a deeper heart-connection and friendship, to love as a commitment and active choice. Jody Hedlund always writes *all the sparks* and romantic tension so well, and Marian and Will’s passion is no exception. The thread of their relationship unfolds and models sacrificial love and loyalty as the most impactful story aspect.

Fans of contemporary romance and medieval times or adventurous and daring knightly heroes like Robin Hood will enjoy Come Back to Me! While it ties up the romance and lives of Marian and William satisfactorily, I can’t wait to see what happens in the next installment, Never Leave Me, as it focuses on Marian’s sister, Ellen — with a love interest I am ALREADY rooting for!

Thank you to publisher Revell and their Revell Reads program for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “The Paris Betrayal” by James R. Hannibal

“If Ben had special equipment and a Company team, maybe he could make a reasonable covert assault. But he had no equipment, and his team had abandoned him.”

The Paris Betrayal by James R. Hannibal

I’m happy to be reviewing a suspense/spy-thriller today! I’ve been a fan of James R. Hannibal the past couple years with his Talia Inger novels. His latest book, The Paris Betrayal, combines some of my favorite elements in one thrilling story: European settings, high stakes action, and the slightest thread of a Biblical parallel. Read on for more about the book + my thoughts…

About the Book
Cover of The Paris Betrayal showing the Eiffel tower with a boat in the foreground

After a rough mission in Rome involving the discovery of a devastating bioweapon, Company spy Ben Calix returns to Paris to find his perfectly ordered world has collapsed. A sniper attack. An ambush. A call for help that brings French SWAT forces down on his head. Ben is out. This is a severance–reserved for incompetents and traitors.

Searching for answers and anticipating a coming attack, Ben and a woman swept up in his misfortunes must travel across Europe to find the sniper who tried to kill him, the medic who saved his life, the schoolmaster who trained him, and an upstart hacker from his former team. More than that, Ben must come to grips with his own insignificance as the Company’s plan to stop Leviathan from unleashing the bioweapon at any cost moves forward without him–and he struggles against the infection that is swiftly claiming territory within his own body.

Award-winning author James R. Hannibal ratchets up the tension on every page of this suspenseful new thriller.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

What a fantastic spy thriller! The Paris Betrayal has a lone operator, Ben Calix, thrust into the cold as he crisscrosses continental Europe in a search to stay alive and prove his innocence and loyalty. From a heart-pounding chase in Rome to evading the French police forces in Paris and beyond, it’s a fast-paced story that reminds me of Jason Bourne — and maybe a little Jack Reacher — as Ben searches for the truth while a menacing organization seeks to thwart his every move.

Hannibal’s authorial voice lends a slight bit of snark and authenticity born of experience (not as a spy, but as a veteran) to this whirlwind of a story as Ben Calix proves a relatable protagonist. Memories of Ben’s training and anecdotes about his teammates and network add depth to the increasing suspense surrounding his failed mission and the debilitating plot he is gradually uncovering. (I feel like I’m prepared to make a quick escape and evade pursuers should the need arise from the tidbits of wisdom attributed to Ben’s mentor, Colonel Hale.) The occasional switch to a POV of one of the secondary characters adds further to the subterfuge and raises more questions for the reader. The story is spun in such a way that I was questioning the loyalties of various characters right alongside Ben, trying to determine who was manipulating the situation and who was innocently caught up in the melee with him.

The astute reader will recognize subtle parallels between this story and the life of the Biblical man Job as each face seemingly unjust situations. I think the inclusion of characters who mirror Job’s “friends” and similar internal questions of purpose and justice are a brilliant move on Hannibal’s part to draw comparisons to the ancient account in a modern scenario.

Fans of action-adventure, thrillers, and espionage-related suspense will want to check out The Paris Betrayal or Hannibal’s backlist for more fast-paced reading material.

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “Tidewater Bride” by Laura Frantz

I am happy to be a part of the blogging team for Laura Frantz’s newest novel, Tidewater Bride! It is a standalone historical romance set in 1634 Virginia Colony.

About the Book
tidewater bride cover

Selah Hopewell seems to be the only woman in the Virginia colony who has no wish to wed. True, there are too many men and far too few women in James Towne. But Selah already has her hands full assisting her father in the family’s shop. And now she is in charge of an incoming ship of tobacco brides who must be looked after as they sort through their many suitors.

Xander Renick is perhaps the most eligible tobacco lord in the settlement. His lands are vast, his crops are prized, and his position as a mediator between the colonists and the powerful Powhatan nation surrounding them makes him indispensable. But Xander is already wedded to his business and still grieves the loss of his wife, daughter of the Powhatan chief.

Can two fiercely independent people find happiness and fulfillment on their own? Or will they discover that what they’ve been missing in life has been right in front of them all along?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Laura Frantz continues to prove her mastery of the historical romance genre with every novel she pens. I am impressed, once again, with the immersive setting, beloved characters, intriguing events, and overall riveting story of Tidewater Bride.

My list of fav Frantz books is long because she’s one of my favorite authors of early America settings. This book is top 4! She introduces eras and places I wouldn’t normally be interested in, or I don’t know much about. She takes readers all the way back to Colonial James Towne here with high historical accuracy which vividly depicts the period and people. I enjoy how Frantz introduces time-specific customs, clothing, language, and day to day life in her stories in a natural way. In this case, I really appreciate her informational author’s note (it had me googling historical events!).

Selah and Xander’s friendship and growing romance unfold at the perfect pace. Their connectedness and backstory are both surprising and poignant, while their current circumstances offer further challenge. Selah is an intelligent and capable woman who demonstrates an admirable respect of her family and trust in God’s will. Xander is a formidable hero who deftly balances the ruggedness needed for survival at such a time with a protective tenderness for all in his care — from his laborers, beloved aunt, son, to his patience with Selah. He’s definitely made my list of book boyfriends due to his rugged charm and wits. 😉

Besides being a captivating story with a tender romance, Tidewater Bride spurs me to think about story and plot beyond the typical. Its presentation of a central romance with several other complex factors influencing pace and story direction is unique and smart. Its themes anchor the characters and reveal their hearts in a relatable way: trust, endurance, the lows of grief, joy, uncertainty, hope. It is a remarkable piece of historical fiction that I am happy to gush over and recommend!

Thank you to Revell for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Mini Review: “You Belong With Me” by Tari Faris

I’m sharing my thoughts today on a contemporary romance novel, You Belong With Me by Tari Faris. See the synopsis of the novel and more about the series on the Goodreads page.

you belong with me book cover

I love the setting and characters! You Belong With Me is “small town charming” with realistically flawed characters and problems, growth, a sparking romance (plus a sweet secondary romance), and a happily ever after. The romantic conflict, though, is centered around a typical “misunderstanding” and situation where both parties keep secrets from each other – not my favorite device. It feels a little forced when honesty could resolve a lot. I do love the way things end up, and a few of the surprises along the way. The themes of grace, belonging/true heritage, and family are organic to the story.

Thank you to the publisher for the copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish” by Bethany Turner

If you haven’t read a Bethany Turner story yet, you’re in for a TREAT! Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish, her latest standalone novel, features the world of celebrity chefs, glamour, and alllll the yummy food.

Hadley Beckett's Next Dish
About the Book

Celebrity chef Maxwell Cavanaugh is known for many things: his multiple Michelin stars, his top-rated Culinary Channel show To the Max, and most of all his horrible temper. Hadley Beckett, host of the Culinary Channel’s other top-rated show, At Home with Hadley, is beloved for her Southern charm and for making her viewers feel like family.

When Max experiences a very public temper tantrum, he’s sent packing to get his life in order. When he returns, career in shambles, his only chance to get back on TV and in the public’s good graces is to work alongside Hadley.

As these polar-opposite celeb chefs begin to peel away the layers of public persona and reputation, they will not only discover the key ingredients for getting along, but also learn the secret recipe for unexpected forgiveness . . . and maybe even love. In the meantime, hide the knives.

Fan-favorite Bethany Turner serves up a heaping helping of humor and romance with this thoroughly modern story centered on cooking, enemies, and second chances.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The conflict in Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish is fantastic. From the initial riveting prologue and story setup, I was anxious to see how Hadley would go from despising Max to liking him – let alone actually finding a friendship and romance with him. But trust Bethany Turner to take all these “seemingly” unrelated ingredients and deliver a “dish” that’s as fun as it is memorable. Filled with all the pop culture (and foodie!) references I’ve come to love in Bethany’s voice, this story is an enemies-to-lovers romance at its finest.

I LOVE MAX. And Hadley, of course 😉

Only Bethany Turner could transform a hero in such a dynamic way. Max has met his match with Hadley, and it’s a thrill to see them pitted against one another — and their grudging friendship turn into sparks of the romantic kind. Aside from the hilarious romcom genius of this story, a strong thread of second chances and healing interweaves the culinary world of Max and Hadley. Facades, public image, and honesty are all dealt with in fresh ways.

The cliMAX (see what I did there?) of the story is unexpected in the most refreshing way! The momentum never stops, and the resolution is played out surprisingly when I would have expected a literary trope or a predictable direction. To reveal just how it stands out and plays on a bit of teamwork would reveal too much, so trust me when I say it is perfection!

I enjoyed all the FOOD, culinary and food-celeb references, and the banter of this novel. The quick wit of Hadley and Max, layered and complicated by their relationship, combine to make this a thoroughly entertaining novel with dimension and plenty of flavor! One of my favorite tiny things about this story was Hadley’s penchant for silently reciting “kitchen ABCs” when she is upset: Apples. Beef stroganoff. Cumin. Dicer.

Now I’m off to cook something, because all the kitchen talk in the novel has made me hungry 😉

Thanks to the publisher, Revell, for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Series Review: "Sunrise at Normandy" by Sarah Sundin

I LOVE to learn about history through story! Sarah Sundin’s WWII “Sunrise at Normandy” series explores what life in the US and England was like for citizens in each branch of the US armed forces and for those in the Red Cross, Women’s Royal Navel Service, and on the home front employed on and off base.

You can read the synopsis and learn more about each book in this series on Goodreads.

Series Review

The “Sunrise at Normandy” series follows the stories of the three Paxton brothers, each serving in a different branch (Navy, Air Force, Army) and fighting in the Battle of Normandy. Their familial circumstances are estranged because of events at the beginning of the series. Because of this, each participates in events leading up to D-Day independently and experiences unique opportunities for romantic relationships AND for growing into forgiveness and reconciliation.

The Sea Before Us delves into just what it means to be held in God’s hand during one of the most tumultuous times in modern history (and one of the most interesting to me): WWII Europe just before and during D-Day. Sundin’s writing style flows naturally and relates the depth of the characters with ease. I thought the characters wonderfully likable and easy to root for, although Dorothy annoyed me a few times with her propensity to overlook a certain someone’s roguish nature. Thankfully, the strong and steady personality of Wyatt is a bright beacon for Dorothy as she grows during the story.

The Sky Above Us is a fantastic WWII story that’s even better if you’ve read book 1!. 😉 I enjoyed that several characters are based on actual historical people — the research shines through in that aspect. Subtle faith themes and parallels to the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau deepen the characters’ arcs and add to the complexity of the plot. The romance unfolds naturally amidst all of the WWII happenings to be sensible and sweet. I think this is my favorite of the three!

The Land Beneath Us is the perfect conclusion to the series. This approach to a group of stories, all three on a similar timeline with the stories of the brothers overlapping, is unique and expertly woven by Sarah Sundin. I really appreciate the bits of real history included in this story, especially concerning the Army’s training and preparedness, and the way all the characters show true growth and maturity as a result of their experiences and relationships. Leah, especially, grows into her role as a woman through this. Another thing I really liked about each of these stories is how they parallel and draw influence from prominent Biblical persons, this one referencing Joseph and Leah.

Thank you to Revell publishers for the review copy of each title. These are my honest thoughts and reviews.

Review: “Chasing the White Lion” by James R. Hannibal

This review is of a super fun action and suspense story: Chasing the White Lion by James R. Hannibal. Though I’m glad I didn’t experience the dangers CIA agent Talia Inger and her team face in this story, I did enjoy googling all of the locations around the globe for a visual — and now I want to visit Prague!

About the Book

Young CIA officer Talia Inger has reconciled with the man who assassinated her father, but that doesn’t mean she wants him hovering over her every move and unearthing the painful past she’s trying to put behind her. Still, she’ll need him–and the help of his star grifter, Valkyrie–if she hopes to infiltrate the Jungle, the first ever crowdsourced crime syndicate, to rescue a group of kidnapped refugee children.

But as Talia and her elite team of thieves con their way into the heart of the Jungle, inching ever closer to syndicate boss the White Lion, she’ll run right up against the ragged edge of her family’s dark past. In this game of cat and mouse, it’s win . . . or die. And in times like that, it’s always good to have someone watching your back.

Former tactical deception officer and stealth pilot James Hannibal takes you deep undercover into the criminal underworld where everyone has an angle and no one escapes unscathed. 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Reading Chasing the White Lion is more fun than watching an action movie — and I do LOVE action movies! If the crew of Ocean’s 11 were working with Mission: Impossible and the CIA, it might look something like what the globe-trotting Talia Inger and her team accomplish.

More than the high-tech, cybercrime-stopping fun, though, these characters share nerdy humor and a deeper story of purpose. While Talia learns to depend and trust those God has placed in her life as a ragtag “family”, ties between these team members grow stronger and more secrets are revealed. I highly recommend reading the first book, The Gryphon Heist, to appreciate the full background of this story and the personalities of each character.

Veteran James R. Hannibal has penned an extraordinarily fun story that simultaneously draws attention to the global opportunities of giving and caring for the “least of these” around us. Chasing the White Lion incorporates the organization Compassion International deftly into its plot and shines such a light on children and human trafficking concerns. For more info, go check out James’ website post about how each book purchased is supporting Compassion.

I highly recommend this book to any fans of action, suspense, or ensemble-cast heist stories with a thread of faith. I hope many more adventures are in story for Talia and company!

Thank you to Revell Reads for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “The Light Before Day” by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Happy Saturday! I’m featuring a review for a novel I read earlier this year” The Light Before Day by Suzanne Woods Fisher. While it is the third in a series, it read like a standalone — I didn’t feel like I was “missing” key information about any of the characters.

About the Book

After three years on a whaling voyage, Henry Macy returns to Nantucket to news that his grandmother has passed, bequeathing her vast fortune to him and his sister, Hitty. And it was truly vast. But Lillian Coffin was no fool. The inheritance comes with a steep cost, including when they should marry and whom–a Quaker in good standing, of course. But if they relinquish the inheritance, it all goes to Tristram Macy, their father’s thieving business partner

As Hitty and Henry seek a way to satisfy the will’s conditions, they’ll be faced with obstacles on every side–and it may be that Lillian Coffin will have the last word after all.

Bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher surprises and delights with this story of hope and renewal, love and redemption, arriving just when most needed. 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

A new to me era/setting combo! I don’t think I’ve ever read about Nantucket, or a novel featuring the early settlers and Quakers of that region. That part was fascinating and a unique look at the history of that time, especially some of the social concerns and segregation divides prior to the Civil War. It has a unique storytelling perspective with a brother and sister’s point of view. I can’t recall a historical I’ve read with such a POV (contemporaries yes). I liked how their individual personalities were portrayed and how you see the influence of the same upbringing yet separate uniqueness coming out of it. I was entertained and intrigued by the possibilities within the story for each sibling’s love interest(s). I had predicted one thing near the beginning, but it turned out to be opposite in the end! I liked that surprise.

Things I didn’t like as much: abrupt ending. I thought a few things could’ve been wrapped up more neatly and one or two relationships could have been shown with a little more detail and resolve. I would have felt better about the HEA. And, I was slightly annoyed with the use of Thee as a pronoun. I know, I know, the people of the day spoke like that. But I am not used to hearing it and it seemed used overmuch.

I appreciated the perspective from ancestral journal entries (based on an actual historical figure) that alluded to themes in the current events and shed light on early settlement of Nantucket in the 16-1700s.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “The Gryphon Heist” by James R. Hannibal

Brace yourself for my thoughts on a new thrilling novel of espionage I’d recommend to any fans of military fiction or suspense! I anticipate The Gryphon Heist is the start of a new remarkable series from author James R. Hannibal.

About the Book

Talia Inger is a rookie CIA case officer assigned not to the Moscow desk as she had hoped but to the forgotten backwaters of Eastern Europe–a department only known as “Other.” When she is tasked with helping a young, charming Moldovan executive secure his designs for a revolutionary defense technology, she figures she’ll be back in DC within a few days. But that’s before she knows where the designs are stored–and who’s after them. With her shady civilian partner, Adam Tyler, Talia takes a deep dive into a world where only criminal minds and unlikely strategies will keep the Gryphon, a high-altitude data vault, hovering in the mesosphere.

Even Tyler is more than he seems, and Talia begins to wonder: Is he helping her? Or using her access to CIA resources to pull off an epic heist for his own dark purposes?

In this Ocean’s Eleven-meets-Mission Impossible thriller, former tactical deception officer and stealth pilot James R. Hannibal offers you a nonstop thrill ride through the most daring heist ever conceived. 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Gryphon Heist is an action-packed thriller of a novel! One that should require a seatbelt warning 😊. The synopsis aptly references Ocean’s 11 meeting Mission: Impossible, and I must agree. I’d also add a comparison to the high stakes, globe-trotting, and gadgetry of a James Bond film with a few more espionage and psychology elements.

We’ll get to Talia and Tyler in a moment, but first I want to talk about the cast of characters! The supporting characters are some of the most vivid and memorable I can recall from an ensemble cast in the vein of Ronie Kendig or Susan May Warren. I enjoyed getting to know their quirks and skillsets! Hannibal’s style balances such a large cast admirably, complete with accents I could “hear” through the succinct phrasing.

Even with all the action, the story is deep and layered.  Talia is a compelling heroine whose emotions and personal journey to grace are handled extremely well and realistically. The secrets and twists she deals with unfold in surprising ways, and Tyler plays a significant role as an enigmatic leader in all of it. I couldn’t predict ANYTHING about the finally-revealed villain or real plot behind the subterfuge. The end is intriguing, to say the least, and I anticipate another surprising and high stakes story with the sequel releasing early next year!

Thank you to Revell for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “A Glitter of Gold” by Liz Johnson

A Glitter of Gold by Liz Johnson is the second book in her Georgia Coast Romance series. It is connected to the first novel (A Sparkle of Silver) in setting alone, so it can be read as a standalone story!

About the Book

When pirate wreck tour guide Anne Norris finds evidence of an undiscovered shipwreck, she seeks the help of museum director Carter Hale to uncover the truth and treasure that could save her business. But can she trust him with her secrets and her heart?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

With A Glitter of Gold, Liz Johnson has written another layered contemporary romance with adventure on the surface and deeper themes of grace and trust at the core. This one happens to feature a little historical story of PIRATES and treasure that is just as riveting and wonderfully echoes the themes of the book.

This story really makes me want to visit Savannah and learn more about its nautical history! Besides the enchanting setting, Liz Johnson’s style brings the characters to life in tangible ways. I was rooting for Anne to find the security and forgiveness she longs for — even if it did take some major trials for her to arrive at a place of peace. Her backstory surprised me in many ways, making her fascinating and more relatable to readers. And Carter! He had some growing to do, too, especially when it came to familial expectations and personal identity. Anne and Carter’s unlikely partnership-turned-friendship (and romance!) leads to quite the adventure, meanwhile exposing the vulnerabilities of their pasts.

As fun and insightful as the contemporary story is, I just might be more in love with the historical elements of A Glitter of Gold. Carter and Anne search through an heirloom diary that tells of Rebecca’s quest and her involvement with Captain Samuel Thackery. Her bravery and fortitude are impressive, as are his integrity and strength of character. Their chemistry is palpable as their relationship shifts into something more… all I can say is, you might need a cooling splash of seawater after you read some of their sweet scenes together!

A Glitter of Gold is the perfect balance of pirates, adventure, longing, and forgiveness. I’m certainly looking forward to Liz’s next book in the series!

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.